A friend once asked me, “What is effective discipleship?” I think this is THE most important question for the Church today. If the mission of the Church is to make disciples (it is by the way) how do we know if we are fulfilling that mission? The simple answer is this: Discipleship is following Jesus through obedience and teaching others to obey His commands. What about preaching the Gospel? Well, that’s the first step in the discipleship process, but it is not the end. I think most churches do a good job of at least some aspect of discipleship. Small groups are great because they allow us to connect outside of the lecturer-instructor paradigm found within most churches. Traditional Sunday School type learning environments are great for information download. However, if the student is not becoming like the teacher and if the student is not entrusting what he or she has learned to others who are also able to teach, then effective discipleship is not taking place. Top down teaching and small groups may be efficient but they are not truly effective until they produce more “teachers” and more groups.
So what’s the answer? I wish I knew! Seriously though, I think a shift in three areas will help us:
1. We have to remember that obedience is not the opposite of Grace; it is central to our walk with Jesus. My friend Mike wrote a great series about that topic here.
2. We have to understand the differences between discipleship and ministry. My friend Tim wrote a great article about that here.
3. We have to understand that discipleship is not a program; it is a process conducted by real people.